A controversial bill has cleared the Virginia General Assembly. According to the Virginian-Pilot, “The bill would allow law enforcement officers to obtain real-time location data from cell service providers in cases involving immediate danger to a person, such as kidnappings.”
Under this bill, cellphone service providers would be required to give the police access to certain data without a warrant. Sponsored by Republican Del. Timothy D. Hugo of Fairfax, this piece of legislation was approved by the State Senate on a 35 to 5 vote, on Thursday. It had previously passed through the House of representatives on a unanimous vote.
There has been some opposition from Democrats and Republicans based on privacy concerns. According to the Pilot:
Sen. J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen, D-Fairfax, opposed the bill, saying it “guts” the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizures. He said officers should have to obtain a warrant.
“There are magistrates available 24/7,” he said.
But supporters of the measure said that magistrates are not always accessible in some parts of the state and that delays in certain situations could cost lives. Sen. Richard H. Black, R-Loudoun, who normally sides with privacy advocates, said the law has always allowed police to search without a warrant under “exigent circumstances.”
“Sometimes you just have to take action,” he said.
Having passed through both the Senate and House of Representatives, the bill now makes to Terry McAuliffe, the governor of Virginia for ratification. His spokesman, Brian McCoy only revealed that the governor will review the legislation.